Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Project Celebration and Book Launch

Over 100 guests attended Ryde High School's Studio Theatre on the evening of Saturday 7 June 2008, to celebrate the launch of Ryde Social Heritage Group's major publication, Ryde's Heritage - Our Town, Your Histories.

Over 100 guests attended Ryde High School’s Studio Theatre on the evening of Saturday 7 June 2008, to celebrate the launch of Ryde Social Heritage Group’s major publication, Ryde’s Heritage – Our Town, Your Histories. The evening was the culmination of six years’ hard work by the group and a celebration of the successful completion of the Lottery funded project.

Several RSHG members spent Saturday afternoon setting up the exhibition in the foyer of the theatre. This included a display of many photographs and maps of Ryde’s West Street Cemetery as well as an explanation of the work done by the various teams. Many of the lives of the people buried in the cemetery have been written up for display on the boards which also included information on the flora and fauna found in the cemetery.

Guests were able to browse through many folders relating various aspects of Ryde’s history including churches, the history of Ryde carnival, education in Ryde and a selection of old postcards. There was also an opportunity for people to look at the RSHG website with Ann Barrett, leader of the Research Group.

Complimentary copies of the book were available for collection by the invited guests and extra copies were for sale, along with other RSHG publications.

Everyone was very keen, having arrived early, and by 7.30pm people were being ushered through to the theatre ready for the presentation. RSHG chairperson, Janette Gregson, firstly captured the occasion for posterity on camera and welcomed everyone to the event. She went on to list the achievements of the group and to explain how the Local Heritage Initiative award of £22,418 had been used.

Between November 2005 and March 2006, RSHG worked alongside Matt Stacey of Matrix E Business, to produce the website. Members were given training sessions and workshops on how to upload information and Janette showed some slides to illustrate these points.

The project was officially launched on 21 March 2006, at the George Street Centre in Ryde, where all the meetings are still held. The inaugural meeting included a display of the research already completed, a presentation by Matthew Bell, and an illustrated talk by Roy Brinton, our Honorary President. One hundred and fifty people attended, and it was a great success.

Janette then went on to talk about the various workgroups within RSHG and clarify what each one does.

The first in the process is the Mapping Group, led by David Earle, which has produced to date, 30 plot maps and recently completed the mapping of the Old Parish Cemetery and the Old Cemetery. These maps are used by the Transcribing Group, led by Janette, which, weather permitting, meets up in the cemetery every Saturday morning. This team has transcribed the inscriptions for almost 5000 people.

Once the transcriptions have been uploaded to the website, Ann Barrett’s Research Group takes over and looks up old newspapers in the County Record Office, for death notices, obituaries and any other articles mentioning these people. Ann also uploads census information from the internet.

Finally, Carol Strong and her Publication Team produce the exhibition material, posters, leaflets and newsletters from the information gathered.

Janette listed the various RSHG exhibitions which have been held and also publicised the forthcoming Open Day on July 6th, as well as Heritage Open Days later in the year.

Some of the grant money was spent purchasing the Display Case in July 2006 and the artwork by Al Rowe. A few weeks ago a new interpretation panel was unveiled, with Al’s artwork, paintings by Maisie Kitching and layout by the Publications Team.

The bulk of the grant, Janette explained, was spent on the publication of the book. She mentioned and thanked the many people involved, including Roy Brinton, Liz Graves, Rachael Mead, Ann McKechnie, Tony Gale and particularly Carol Strong, David Earle and Ann Barrett for all their hard work. Janette also mentioned Sally-Ann Garrett, one of the founder members of RSHG, without whose time and commitment the group would not exist today.

A huge amount of the research completed was done by the late Les Barrett. Janette paid tribute to Les for all his work and informed the audience that the book is dedicated to his memory.

The final part of Janette’s presentation was about funding. Whenever grant funding is provided there is an expectation that it will be matched in money, goods or kind. With a given hourly rate for volunteer time, Janette predicted that by the time of completion of the project, the total value of matched funding will be nearly £200,000. A phenomenal result for the initial £22,418!

Janette then handed over to Roy Brinton who gave an illustrated talk on a variety of notable people of Ryde, who are buried in the cemetery. He began with some very interesting information on the IW’s early journalists, including Ebenezer Hartnell, of the Ryde Ventilator, and George and Hannah Butler of the Isle of Wight Observer. He then went on to tell us about local photographers and artists such as William Hogg and Frederick Nutt Broderick, and Arthur Wellington Fowles, whose main interest was seascapes. Former mayor of Ryde and pork butcher, William Locke, Robert Bloxam, a surgeon and William H Long & Son, Hatters, Hosiers and Tailors.

As always Roy’s talk was well received and Janette thanked him on behalf of us all. The audience was invited to ask questions or have a final browse of the exhibition and a very successful evening concluded at about 9 o’clock.

Kate MacDonell & Diana Wood 12.6.08